Social responsibility

Active corporate citizenship programmes relevant to the needs of the communities where we operate ensure that we promote socio-economic development within these communities.

We actively engage with and are part of the communities where we are located. Helping to address the needs and concerns of these communities enhances our licence to operate, entrenches our reputation and is in line with our goal of being a responsible corporate citizen.

In each region where we operate, we invest in three key stakeholder groups: our customers, communities and employees. While each region has its own programme, these conform to common themes which are aligned with our business needs and priorities and which include education, local community support, the environment and health and welfare. We encourage employees to participate in outreach and community projects.

The bulk of our spend is allocated to the Southern African region, where the developmental needs are greater than in the other regions where we operate. For Sappi, ‘sustainable’ CSR projects are those which enable communities to progress further than they would have on their own – in other words, projects which allow people to leverage their energies and talents to sustain themselves, creating meaningful change.

Our funding objective in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is to effect meaningful change by providing equitable access to resources and opportunities in response to identified needs in areas where we operate. We adopt a participatory approach, identifying the needs of individual communities, consulting extensively with the community, its leaders and with local government and then tailoring appropriate programmes to meet the specific needs of the people and the environment. In this way, projects become more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Our community partnership approach has led to a number of innovative initiatives:

In Europe, while each mill takes a different approach, responding to the needs of communities is a priority for all mills. Our employee tree-planting initiative – which has a strong community dimension, engaging in and with our local environment – at our Brussels office is just one example. The initiative started in Spring 2010 in association with ANB (Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos), the equivalent of the Department of Forestry. This organisation is responsible for the planting of approximately 30,000 trees in the Forêt de Soignes every year as part of the National Forest Management Plan (Belgium).

In North America, in line with our focus on environmental stewardship, we support Living Lands and Waters, an organisation which helps to clean up rivers and waterways.

In Southern Africa, we have established the Abashintshi (the ‘changers’ in Zulu) training programme. The aim of the programme is twofold: to reduce fires and uplift communities. This involved training two young people from each of the nine communities selected in our pilot programme. Key to the programme is the engagement with youth, as we had previously engaged primarily with traditional leaders and councillors. In 2017, development Communication Specialists (DevCom) won a Golden Loerie Award in the Shared Value category for their innovative work in partnership with Sappi Southern Africa on the Abashintshi programme. In the 2017 International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) awards, Sappi Southern Africa and DevCom won an excellence award for innovative research methods for Sappi’s vast rural workforce and also won a merit award for the Abashintshi Social Mobilisation Project.

Sappi Southern Africa continues to support PROTEC which delivers science, mathematics, technology, world-of-work and English theoretical and practical education to grades 10 to 12 learners from disadvantaged communities. The Sappi-sponsored PROTEC matric class of 2017 obtained an impressive 100% pass rate, compared with the average national matric pass rate of 72.5%. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Sappi-sponsored PROTEC branches achieved an average Bachelor pass rate of 91% compared to the Department of Education’s 28.7%. In Mpumalanga, the Sappi-sponsored PROTEC Nelspruit branch achieved an average Bachelor pass rate of 92% compared to the Department of Education’s 23.4%.

We hold ourselves accountable to global sustainability best practice standards by transparently measuring, monitoring and communicating our economic, social and environmental performance.

Our ability to deliver value creation for our shareholders by focusing on improved profitability, strategic positioning and debt reduction lies at the heart of our commitment to sustainability.

Recognising that we live in a world where natural resources are under increasing pressure, we aim to lighten our environmental footprint.